If it weren’t for the title fight at the top of the card, UFC 278 would look an awful like your run of the mill Fight Night card. Notice I didn’t even say a top-notch Fight Night card. Much of my complaint can even be traced to the prelims, as there are a lot of fights featuring fighters new to the organization or flirting with the unemployment line. Sure, there can be rough gems in there, but gems typically don’t reveal themselves to be gems for a few years.
That doesn’t mean everything in the early fights are a letdown. Amir Albazi has flashed enough that many have already put a close eye on him. Plus, AJ Fletcher and Ange Loosa may be without a UFC win, but they’ve proven to be entertaining at the least. Like I do every week, I’ll be tuning in, but I do need to acknowledge this card isn’t up to the usual PPV standard, even in its early stages.
- On paper, it looks like AJ Fletcher and Ange Loosa could be battling it out to maintain their UFC employment. The hope here is that isn’t the case. Fletcher is still young, both in years and experience in the sport, and Loosa impressed against a tough opponent in a short-notice debut. Though they are both on the short side for welterweight, Loosa makes up for it with an abnormally long reach for his size. It has allowed him to engage in some entertaining, high-paced striking battles, though he has also fallen short in those. Regardless, the fact he can stay effective in those fights is a big point in his favor as the bricked-up Fletcher slowed considerably in his UFC debut that went the distance, only the second time he has gone the distance. Fletcher is an explosive athlete and is an impressive wrestler, but he’s going to need to remain effective beyond the first round… or hope for the early finish he was able to collect so frequently on the regional scene. Loosa’s durability and toughness are likely to see him survive beyond the first and it’s likely his fight from there given the altitude of SLC. Expect Loosa to take a hard-fought and entertaining decision. Loosa via decision
- There is a lot to like about Amir Albazi. He’s a plus athlete in a division full of athletes. He has an aggressive submission game. His striking has been improving too. The Swede has looked like a world-beater at times in his brief UFC run, but that has only been two fights in the space of two years. In other words, he’s been his own worst enemy due to his long absences. To be fair, he hasn’t been at fault every time a fight of his has fallen out. Regardless, in a division where age factors in sooner than any other division, he can’t afford to be on the sidelines any longer. He looks to regain his momentum to the top against someone who knows someone at the top in Deveison Figueiredo’s younger brother. Francisco Figueiredo isn’t going to be mistaken for his brother, but he does have some power and surprised many with his submission prowess when he secured a kneebar in his last appearance. What holds Figueiredo back is his size. It isn’t that he’s small; he’s on the big side of the division. It’s that he needs to pace himself as he doesn’t have much in reserve after making weight. Albazi tends to push a high pace. It’s hard not to anticipate Albazi running rampant over his Brazilian counterpart, provided he has acclimated to the altitude. Albazi via submission of RD2
- The third time proved to be the charm for Aoriqileng, securing a win in his third UFC contest after coming up empty in his first two UFC contests. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that is coincided with his decision to move up to bantamweight after struggling with the cut to 125. Against Cameron Else, Qileng looked stronger, faster, and more energetic. It does appear he’ll lose the advantage of being the larger man in the cage – an advantage he has typically enjoyed — but he has the physical tools to handle that deficiency with efficiency. That said, it isn’t a surety that will be the case against Jay Perrin. Not because Perrin is a supremely gifted athlete, but because Perrin may be the smaller fighter in the cage. Perrin is an absolute bulldog on the mat with excellent instincts. His best chance to win will be to catch Qileng in a scramble as it’s hard to see him winning a firefight with Qileng. Perhaps Perrin can control Qileng for long stretches as he is the more technical wrestler, but Qileng is a crafty scrambler. Qileng is the better athlete, harder puncher, and has proven he can dig deep. I’m still not sure Perrin can. Qileng via decision
- Controversy appears to be the only thing following Victor Altamirano at this juncture. He won a controversial split decision to earn his UFC contract and dropped a controversial split decision in his official debut. Given Altamirano isn’t a high-profile name, the controversy is largely being forgotten about. At least he’s proving to be fun to watch, engaging in fast paced firefights with plenty of scrambles. However, the pace he pushes is nothing compared to that of Daniel Da Silva. The Brazilian is a classic case of kill-or-be-killed, firing out of the gates looking for the finish at a pace that is impossible to hold for 15 minutes. Of his 14 career fights, only two have left the first round, none going beyond the second. Da Silva is the better athlete, but the toughness and fight IQ of Altamirano is going to be tough to overcome. Either Da Silva finds success with an early high-risk maneuver or Altamirano survives the early onslaught to put his exhausted opponent away. The latter appears more plausible. Altamirano via TKO of RD2
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